"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Keeping it Real this Christmas

One woman's campaign to keep it all together. 

Last night my husband and I attended the Vine Street lighting ceremony in Paso Robles. We strolled hand-in-hand down the twelve or so closed-off blocks lined with Victorian houses. It was a mood night—part romance, part nostalgia.

Non-profits, churches and youth groups handed out popcorn, cotton candy, cider and hot chocolate to thousands of visitors. Churches had living crèches, bands and singers along the route. Scrooge taunted the crowds from the second story of a Victorian, calling out bah-humbugs, with the crowd scoffing their replies. The Grinch was present along with giggling children and their parents. Lights on top of lights. Pure magic!

NOW I feel the Season. The Hallmark marathon I’ve watched the last five nights didn’t hurt, either. Maybe it’s a case of overkill—I heard myself actually debating the cinematic points of “The Christmas Card” today with my sister. She likes Debbie Macomber’s “Trading Christmas” better. Yikes! There was a time when those movies were too saccharine to stand. Now I plant myself in front of the TV at 7:00 every night to catch the new one. But it’s Christmas. Whatchagonnado?

I have to watch them pronto because next week it’s the Battle of the Nutcracker Ballet—each night a different one, and the viewers get to vote on their favorite. Last year I taped part of one. This year I’m going to tape them all so my four-year-old granddaughter and I can watch them when she comes for the holidays.

Thanks to Jennifer’s fabulous green website tips, I’ll be wrapping my gifts in newsprint this year. She’s a military wife with a great moral compass. My gifts are for the most part purchased from local venders I met at craft and art fairs while I was selling my books. (Relax, family, you’re not getting crocheted doilies or acrylic stretch booties.)

Not to boast (well, maybe a little), I bought locally from my writer friends, artists ( a little plug here for a deserving artist,) jewelers and carvers. It feels good to have a personal connection with the creative genius behind my purchase. I even like that my paper shopping bags have a signature on them. I’m breaking out the sewing machine and making a wedding dress for my granddaughter’s new doll. (Santa’s secret is safe because she only reads picture books.)

I just organized a cookie exchange with the caveat that some of them need to be gluten free. That should be fun—plates of goodies I don’t have to bake. I’ll look like Martha Stewart when my kids arrive. “Mom! My gosh, you’ve been busy!”

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1tsp baking soda
1/2 cup GF chocolate chips

Beat first four ingredients in mixer. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop rounded tablespoons two inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Makes about two dozen.

Two weeks until Christmas. Plenty of time to burn my first batch of fudge. I’m humming carols, vacuuming and dusting spots I only catch when company’s coming. I have a new recipe from Susan Gaddis for easy crockpot oatmeal that I’m going to try out on my health-conscious kids this year, after they spent Thanksgiving mocking our Friday night reward trips to Foster Freeze for hot fudge sundaes. Who would have thought THOSE would ever be no-no’s? I’ve outlived my era!

Now for the annual Christmas tree lot argument with my husband who knows nothing about perfect trees. Then a day of pulling everything down out of the attic, decorating and swearing that NEXT year I’m either hiring it done or throwing half the decorations away. Christmas tends to build until I’m sick of the whole idea and nothing could live up to the hype. I’ve gone this route before and I know the signs. Not going to happen!

Where I used to have to budget my time, now it seems like it’s my energy. But I’m lucky this year. I have a bunch of appointments scheduled for the end of the year. It’s my way of not getting crazy about Christmas and ending up an emotional dishrag. 

This year I’m treating my daughter, niece and their kids to the Christmas show at the Oceano Melodrama and staying home. Seems like an old-folks thing to do, parking myself in front of the fire and living vicariously knowing the grandkids will come home glowing with excitement. And if that doesn’t put me in the Christmas spirit, nothing will. Eggnog, anyone?

How’s it going for you this season? Any thoughts on keeping the spirits bright?